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Have Space Suit - Will Travel Part 24

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"My lord peers . . . you have the advantage of many minds and much knowledge-" It was odd to see her singing, hear her in English; the translation still held that singing quality.

"-but I know them. It is true that they are violent-especially the smaller one-but they are not more violent than is appropriate to their ages. Can we expect mature restraint in a race whose members all must die in early childhood? And are not we ourselves violent? Have we not this day killed our billions? Can any race survive without a willingness to fight? It is true that these creatures are often more violent than is necessary or wise. But, my peers, they all are so very young. Give them time to learn."

"That is exactly what there is to fear, that they may learn. Your race is overly sentimental; it distorts your judgment."

"Not true! We are compa.s.sionate, we are not foolish. I myself have been the proximate cause of how many, many adverse decisions? You know; it is in your records-I prefer not to remember. And I shall be again. When a branch is diseased beyond healing, it must be pruned. We are not sentimental; we are the best watchers you have ever found, for we do it without anger. Toward evil we have no mercy. But the mistakes of a child we treat with loving forbearance."

"Have you finished?"



"I say that this branch need not be pruned! I have finished."

The Mother Thing's image vanished. The voice went on, "Does any other race speak for them?"

"I do." Where she had been now stood a large green monkey. He stared at us and shook his head, then suddenly did a somersault and finished looking at us between his legs. "I'm no friend of theirs but I am a lover of 'justice'-in which I differ from my colleagues in this Council." He twirled rapidly several times. "As our sister has said, this race is young. The infants of my own n.o.ble race bite and scratch each other-some even die from it. Even I behaved so, at one time." He jumped into the air, landed on his hands, did a flip from that position. "Yet does anyone here deny that I am civilized?" He stopped, looked at us thoughtfully while scratching. "These are brutal savages and I don't see how anyone could ever like them-but I say: give them their chance!"

His image disappeared.

The voice said, "Have you anything to add before a decision is reached?"

I started to say: No, get it over with-when Peewee grabbed my ear and whispered. I listened, nodded, and spoke. "Mr. Moderator-if the verdict is against us-can you hold off your hangmen long enough to let us go home? We know that you can send us home in only a few minutes."

The voice did not answer quickly. "Why do you wish this? As I have explained, you are not personally on trial. It has been arranged to let you live."

"We know. We'd rather be home, that's all-with our people."

Again a tiny hesitation. "It shall be done."

"Are the facts sufficient to permit a decision?"

"Yes."

"What is the decision?"

"This race will be re-examined in a dozen half-deaths of radium. Meanwhile there is danger to it from itself. Against this mischance it will be given a.s.sistance. During the probationary period it will be watched closely by Guardian Mother-" the machine trilled the true Vegan name of the Mother Thing "-the cop on that beat, who will report at once any ominous change. In the meantime we wish this race good progress in its long journey upward.

"Let them now be returned forthwith to the s.p.a.ce-time whence they came."

Chapter 12.

I didn't think it was safe to make our atmosphere descent in New Jersey without filing a flight plan. Princeton is near important targets; we might be homed-on by everything up to A-missiles. The Mother Thing got that indulgent chuckle in her song: ("I fancy we can avoid that.") She did. She put us down in a side street, sang good-bye and was gone. It's not illegal to be out at night in s.p.a.ce suits, even carrying a rag dolly. But it's unusual-cops hauled us in. They phoned Peewee's father and in twenty minutes we were in his study, drinking cocoa and talking and eating shredded wheat.

Peewee's mother almost had a fit. While we told our story she kept gasping, "I can't believe it!" until Professor Reisfeld said, "Stop it, Janice. Or go to bed." I don't blame her. Her daughter disappears on the Moon and is given up for dead-then miraculously reappears on Earth. But Professor Reisfeld believed us. The way the Mother Thing had "understanding" he had "acceptance." When a fact came along, he junked theories that failed to match.

He examined Peewee's suit, had her switch on the helmet, shined a light to turn it opaque, all with a little smile. Then he reached for the phone. "Dario must see this."

"At midnight. Curt?"

"Please, Janice. Armageddon won't wait for office hours."

"Professor Reisfeld?"

"Yes, Kip?"

"Uh, you may want to see other things first."

"That's possible."

I took things from Oscar's pockets-two beacons, one for each of us, some metal "paper" covered with equations, two "happy things," and two silvery spheres. We had stopped on Vega Five, spending most of the time under what I suppose was hypnosis while Prof Joe and another professor thing pumped us for what we knew of human mathematics. They hadn't been learning math from us-oh, no! They wanted the language we use in mathematics, from radicals and vectors to those weird symbols in higher physics, so that they could teach us; the results were on the metal paper. First I showed Professor Reisfeld the beacons. "The Mother Thing's beat now includes us. She says to use these if we need her. She'll usually be close by-a thousand light-years at most. But even if she is far away, she'll come."

"Oh." He looked at mine. It was neater and smaller than the one she haywired on Pluto. "Do we dare take it apart?"

"Well, it's got a lot of power tucked in it. It might explode."

"Yes, it might." He handed it back, looking wistful.

A "happy thing" can't be explained. They look like those little abstract sculptures you feel as well as look at. Mine was like obsidian but warm and not hard; Peewee's was more like jade. The surprise comes when you touch one to your head. I had Professor Reisfeld do so and he looked awed-the Mother Thing is all around you and you feel warm and safe and understood.

He said, "She loves you. The message wasn't for me. Excuse me."

"Oh, she loves you, too."

"Eh?"

"She loves everything small and young and fuzzy and helpless. That's why she's a 'mother thing.' "

I didn't realize how it sounded. But he didn't mind. "You say she is a police officer?"

"Well, she's more of a juvenile welfare officer-this is a slum neighborhood we're in, backward and pretty tough. Sometimes she has to do things she doesn't like. But she's a good cop and somebody has to do nasty jobs. She doesn't shirk them."

"I'm sure she wouldn't."

"Would you like to try it again?"

"Do you mind?"

"Oh, no, it doesn't wear out."

He did and got that warm happy look. He glanced at Peewee, asleep with her face in her cereal. "I need not have worried about my daughter, between the Mother Thing-and you."

"It was a team," I explained. "We couldn't have made it without Peewee. The kid's got guts."

"Too much, sometimes."

"Other times you need that extra. These spheres are recorders. Do you have a tape recorder, Professor?"

"Certainly, sir." We set it up and let a sphere talk to it. I wanted a tape because the spheres are one-shot-the molecules go random again. Then I showed him the metal paper. I had tried to read it, got maybe two inches into it, then just recognized a sign here and there. Professor Reisfeld got halfway down the first page, stopped. "I had better make those phone calls."

At dawn a sliver of old Moon came up and I tried to judge where Tombaugh Station was. Peewee was asleep on her Daddy's couch, wrapped in his bathrobe and clutching Madame Pompadour. He had tried to carry her to bed but she had wakened and become very, very difficult, so he put her down. Professor Reisfeld chewed an empty pipe and listened to my sphere whispering softly to his recorder. Occasionally he darted a question at me and I'd snap out of it.

Professor Giomi and Dr. Bruck were at the other end of the study, filling a blackboard, erasing and filling it again, while they argued over that metal paper. Geniuses are common at the Inst.i.tute for Advanced Study but these two wouldn't be noticed anywhere; Bruck looked like a truckdriver and Giomi like an excited Iunio. They both had that Okay-I-get-you that Professor Reisfeld had. They were excited but Dr. Bruck showed it only by a tic in his face-which Peewee's Daddy told me was a guarantee of nervous breakdowns-not for Bruck, for other physicists.

Two mornings later we were still there. Professor Reisfeld had shaved; the others hadn't. I napped and once I took a shower. Peewee's Daddy listened to recordings-he was now replaying Peewee's tape. Now and then Bruck and Giomi called him over, Giomi almost hysterical and Bruck stolid. Professor Reisfeld always asked a question or two, nodded and came back to his chair. I don't think he could work that math-but he could soak up results and fit them with other pieces.

I wanted to go home once they were through with me but Professor Reisfeld said please stay; the Secretary General of the Federated Free Nations was coming.

I stayed. I didn't call home because what was the use in upsetting them? I would rather have gone to New York City to meet the Secretary General, but Professor Reisfeld had invited him here-I began to realize that anybody really important would come if Professor Reisfeld asked him.

Mr. van Duivendijk was slender and tall. He shook hands and said, "I understand that you are Dr. Samuel C. Russell's son."

"You know my father, sir?"

"I met him years ago, at the Hague."

Dr. Bruck turned-he had barely nodded at the Secretary General. "You're Sam Russell's boy?"

"Uh, you know him, too?"

"Of course. On the Statistical Interpretation of Imperfect Data. Brilliant." He turned back and got more chalk on his sleeve. I hadn't known that Dad had written such a thing, nor suspected that he knew the top man in the Federation. Sometimes I think Dad is eccentric.

Mr. van D. waited until the double domes came up for air, then said, "You have something, gentlemen?"

"Yeah," said Bruck.

"Superb!" agreed Giomi.

"Such as?"

"Well-" Dr. Bruck pointed at a line of chalk. "That says you can damp out a nuclear reaction at a distance."

"What distance?"

"How about ten thousand miles? Or must you do it from the Moon?"

"Oh, ten thousand miles is sufficient, I imagine."

"You could do it from the Moon," Giomi interrupted, "if you had enough power. Magnificent!"

"It is," agreed van Duivendijk. "Anything else?"

"What do you want?" demanded Bruck. "Egg in your suds?"

"Well?"

"See that seventeenth line? It may mean anti-gravity, I ain't promising. Or, if you rotate ninety degrees, this unstable Latin thinks it's time travel."

"It is!"

"If he's right, the power needed is a fair-sized star-so forget it." Bruck stared at hen's tracks. "A new approach to matter conversion-possibly. How about a power pack for your vest pocket that turns out more ergs than the Brisbane reactors?"

"This can be done?"

"Ask your grandson. It won't be soon." Bruck scowled.

"Dr. Bruck, why are you unhappy?" asked Mr. van D.

Bruck scowled harder. "Are you goin' to make this Top Secret'? I don't like cla.s.sifying mathematics. It's shameful."

I batted my ears. I had explained to the Mother Thing about "cla.s.sified" and I think I shocked her. I said that the FFN had to have secrets for survival, just like Three Galaxies. She couldn't see it. Finally she had said that it wouldn't make any difference in the long run. But I had worried because while I don't like science being "secret," I don't want to be reckless, either.

Mr. van D. answered, "I don't like secrecy. But I have to put up with it."

"I knew you would say that!"

"Please. Is this a U.S. government project?"

"Eh? Of course not."

"Nor a Federation one. Very well, you've shown me some equations. I can't tell you not to publish them. They're yours."

Bruck shook his head. "Not ours." He pointed at me. "His."

"I see." The Secretary General looked at me. "I am a lawyer, young man. If you wish to publish, I see no way to stop you."

"Me? It's not mine-I was just-well, a messenger."

"You seem to have the only claim. Do you wish this published? Perhaps with all your names?" I got the impression that he wanted it published.

"Well, sure. But the third name shouldn't be mine; it should be-" I hesitated. You can't put a birdsong down as author. "-uh, make it 'Dr. M. Thing.'"

"Who is he?"

"She's a Vegan. But we could pretend it's a Chinese name."

The Secretary General stayed on, asking questions, listening to tapes. Then he made a phone call-to the Moon. I knew it could be done, I never expected to see it. "Van Duivendijk here . . . yes, the Secretary General. Get the Commanding General . . . Jim? . . . This connection is terrible . . . Jim, you sometimes order practice maneuvers . . . My call is unofficial but you might check a valley-" He turned to me; I answered quickly. "-a valley just past the mountains east of Tombaugh Station. I haven't consulted the Security Council; this is between friends. But if you go into that valley I very strongly suggest that it be done in force, with all weapons. It may have snakes in it. The snakes will be camouflaged. Call it a hunch. Yes, the kids are fine and so is Beatrix. I'll phone Mary and tell her I talked with you."

The Secretary General wanted my address. I couldn't say when I would be home because I didn't know how I would get there-I meant to hitchhike but didn't say so. Mr. van D.'s eyebrows went up. "I think we owe you a ride home. Eh, Professor?"

"That would not be overdoing it."

"Russell, I heard on your tape that you plan to study engineering-with a view to s.p.a.ce."

"Yes, sir. I mean, 'Yes, Mr. Secretary.' "

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Have Space Suit - Will Travel Part 24 summary

You're reading Have Space Suit - Will Travel. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Robert A. Heinlein. Already has 685 views.

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